Truffles – Three Ways

I don’t always bake. Sometimes I like to make big messes that don’t involve flour!
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A truffle is basically glorified ganache, enhanced with lots of butter. That’s what makes it melt on your tongue, with the satisfying taste of rich chocolate.

I made truffles last night and tried dipping them, molding them, and piping them. By far the easiest method was piping. You can pipe them, let them set, and then roll them in powdered sugar or cocoa for an easy and impressive treat, but I added a bit of peppermint extract to a third of the mixture and then piped it into mini cupcake liners. After chilling in the refrigerator, they popped right out of the liners and into my mouth – a perfect Frango mint.

Melt-in-your-mouth Frangos!

Melt-in-your-mouth Frangos!

Dipping them was messy easy. I chilled the truffle mixture and used my smallest cookie scoop for a domed appearance, dipped them in melted chocolate, and drizzled the tops. Then, because I wanted them to look elegant, I painted the drizzle with gold dust. (Yes, it’s edible!)

Dipping the truffle in melted chocolate.

Dipping the truffle in melted chocolate.

A touch of gold...

A touch of gold…

Elegant - until you have to lick the chocolate off your fingers...

Elegant – until you have to lick the chocolate off your fingers…

I wanted to make a truffle-filled chocolate egg for Easter. It would have been fine if I’d used a plastic chocolate mold, but I was too lazy to go dig through the Easter decorations (and no, for the first time in 40 years I didn’t decorate the house this Easter. I promise it will never happen again) so I tried to get away with a metal mold. Huh uh…don’t do it!

Fill the molds ALMOST full - then top with melted chocolate. Chill.

Fill the molds ALMOST full – then top with melted chocolate. Chill.

It should have been simple: paint the mold with melted chocolate, chill, fill the centers with truffle mixture, cover with more chocolate, and chill again. When the molds are turned over, the eggs plop out on the counter, ready to be decorated. Mine didn’t plop. Here’s ONE that turned out nicely.

A truffle filled Easter Egg.

A truffle filled Easter Egg.

It takes a lot of chocolate and two sticks of butter for this recipe, but you won’t regret making these!

Dark Chocolate Truffles
If you prefer not to use the Kahlua, just add 3 more tablespoons of cream.
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Kahlua
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 14 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1 cup butter
  1. Put the cream, sugar, Kahlua, and espresso powder in a medium pan and bring to a boil. Stir in the corn syrup and remove from the heat.
  2. Add the finely chopped chocolate in about 5 additions, stirring gently each time, until all of the chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, whip the butter well.
  4. When the chocolate is the same temperature as the butter (don't get impatient here; this is critical...warm chocolate will melt the butter) gradually stir the chocolate into the butter, mixing well.
  5. At this point you may pipe the mixture onto waxed paper, or let it set a bit for molding and dipping.


Now I’m going to go clean up my mess. It looks like a chocolate factory exploded in my kitchen!

Carrot Cake for All!

carrot cake for blog

Everyone has their favorite carrot cake recipe, and this is mine! That is – it’s my favorite, but I didn’t create this recipe. It was given to me years ago by a co-worker, who got it from a friend in Alaska, who…well…you get the picture.

It’s filled with goodies, giving it a delightful texture, and is very simple to make. It won best of class at the state Grange baking competition a few years ago, even though I (GASP) substituted a buttercream icing for the traditional cream cheese version. It works equally well as a layer cake, a sheet cake, or cupcakes. You just can’t fail if you follow this recipe!

Carrot Cake
  • 2 cups plus 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained well
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 cup nuts, chopped (walnuts or pecans)
  1. Heat oven to 325 F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together well.
  3. Add the oil and beat for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat for 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in carrots, pineapple, raisins and nuts.
  6. Pour into a greased and floured 13x9" pan. (Or you may use two 9" cake pans.)
  7. Bake for approximately one hour, (shorter for two 9" pans) or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Cool well before icing.


Cream Cheese Frosting:

6 oz. cream cheese
3 tablespoons milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 cup coconut (optional)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Combine cream cheese, milk and vanilla. Beat for 2-3 minutes. Add salt and powdered sugar. Beat well. Stir in coconut and chopped pecans. Spread on cooled cake. Store any remainder in the refrigerator.

I’m keeping this blog short and sweet, because I have another idea just waiting to be tested and blogged…maybe tomorrow!

If you haven’t checked it out yet, and you’re not a teetotaler, please visit my Easter Beer Hunt blog. Easter Beer Hunt!

Chocolate Walnut Drops

Chocolate Walnut Drops - waiting while I pour a cup of coffee.

Chocolate Walnut Drops – waiting while I pour a cup of coffee.

Grandma Elsie specialized in cookies. I never knew her to bake anything that used yeast, but BOY could she bake cookies. To this day, my six favorite cookie recipes came from Grandma. The only trick was, you had to grab one or two right away before Grandpa lit up a cigar. No one ate day old cookies at their place – at least, not twice! That cigar smoke could permeate anything, and had no trouble getting through plastic wrap or foil.

That was actually a shame in this instance, since the cookies I’m going to show you today actually get softer and moister more moist moister with age.

After fifty or sixty years of baking you’d think she’d have her recipes memorized (she could play complicated piano pieces from memory, for crying out loud) but no – she’d get out her little metal recipe box and follow it step by step, measuring carefully with all of her ingredients organized and ready to go before she started. Obviously, baking techniques are not genetic.

Mmm mmm, love these babies!

Mmm mmm, love these babies!

I just baked her Chocolate Walnut Drop Cookies last night for a baking competition at the grange, along with some Perfect Dinner Rolls. See my last baking blog for the roll recipe. The rolls won best of class (that’s better than blue…it’s the coveted purple ribbon) so they’re going on to state competition. The cookies, however, were “too dry, and the frosting overwhelmed them. Not enough flavor.” Seriously? Of course they’re dry; they’re cookies, not brownies or cake! Biting through the frosting to get to the cookie is the best part. Pffft.

That’s okay – you win some, you lose some. They’re still one of my favorites. See what you think!

Chocolate Drop Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies. These cookies age well, if they get the chance! Just keep them in an airtight container.
  • 2 one-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ cup flour
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Icing:
  • 1 square unsweetened chocolate
  • 4-6 tablespoons cream
  • 1½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • (Chopped walnuts to sprinkle over icing, if desired)
  1. Heat oven to 375 F.
  2. Melt 2 squares unsweetened chocolate with ½ cup milk. (Microwave is fine.) Stir well and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Cream the butter and brown sugar well.
  4. Add egg and beat well.
  5. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and the chocolate mixture alternately to the creamed mixture, beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the chocolate mixture.
  7. Add the vanilla and nuts.
  8. Drop by heaping teaspoonful (or small cookie scoop) onto lightly greased baking sheet.
  9. Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes. Cool on a rack. (Don't overcook or they will be dry. Try checking with a toothpick if you're not sure they're done.)
  10. ICING:
  11. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave.
  12. Add 4 tablespoons cream, the powdered sugar, and the vanilla.
  13. Stir to combine.
  14. Add enough remaining cream to make icing easily spreadable.
  15. Spread on the cookies and top with chopped walnuts.

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Cream the butter and brown sugar together well.

Alternate adding dry ingredients and wet ingredients.

Alternate adding dry ingredients and wet ingredients.

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Carefully measure the vanilla (bwa ha ha) and add the chopped nuts.

Scoop 'em onto a lightly greased baking sheet.

Scoop ’em onto a lightly greased baking sheet.

Baked and ready to be frosted.

Baked and ready to be frosted.

I really really wanted to post this blog with a picture of a blue ribbon. Sigh. I’m not a sore loser – no sir. Huh uh.


Fly on the Wall for March

Fly on the Wall
Here we go again! Every month a group of bloggers gets together to give you little snippets of what life is really like in their house when no one’s watching. (Except for you – because you’re actually a little fly on the wall…out of reach of the flyswatter, hopefully!)

Here’s your chance to see what went on in two households, as I spend three weeks visiting my daughter in California and get to meet my new grandson for the first time. When you are through with this blog, please check out the links below for more dirt!
Even if you’ve been doing your calisthenics, a fly can only travel about six miles in a day, so you probably just hung out at my house while I was in California. If so, this is what you would have seen:
The whole Deadwood series.
The whole Lonesome Dove series.
The whole Streets of Laredo series.
The whole Dead Man’s Walk series.

You also probably got to listen to a lot of fascinating phone conversations, because The Man talks on the phone more than most adolescent girls. You now know more about hunting than you ever, ever wanted to know. And conspiracy theories.

In the meantime, however, your relatives in California were chilling on the wall at my daughter Brenna’s house, where it is much more entertaining.
March 1st finds us scurrying out the door on our way to the Dr. Seuss breakfast at the girls’ elementary school. Taunee is in jammies (because it’s also pajama day) but Sophie is rocking a new outfit, complete with a furry vest. Yes indeed, we hit the mall yesterday – a big treat for me, since I live up in the hills, far from any decent shopping.

You won’t have long to wait. We’ll be back soon to load the “Better than Crack Brownies (though to be politically correct, at school Sophie calls them Better than Crackle Brownies) and jugs of milk into the car for Sophie’s class, to celebrate her birthday. Those 4th graders will go through two pans of brownies and almost two gallons of milk!

The house is decorated for tonight’s slumber party. Sophie and I made lots of hot pink and black paper roses to go with her pink and black zebra theme.

Just a few of MANY flowers we made.

Just a few of MANY flowers we made.

I hope you brought your little fly ear protection. Five girls can make a LOT of noise during a slumber party. Here’s a link to my blog, if you’re dying to know how to make a zebra cake! Sophie’s Zebra Party

taun and eema mustaches

“Eema” (that would be me) and Taunee. Wonder where she gets her goofiness from…

You may have noticed that Taunee is a source of constant entertainment. Here are a few of the things you’ve heard already:

Brenna: “Taunee, what’s that blue stuff in your hair?”
Taunee: “I don’t know – what’s it taste like?”

Taunee is in her nightgown. The dog is sniffing her butt and she’s giggling.
Brenna: “Taun, don’t let the dog do that!”
Taunee: “Whaaaat? I LIKE it.”

Baby, screaming loudly
Taunee: “He sounds like a fire drill!”

And in the “Things You Don’t Expect to Hear” category:

Taunee: “Did you put an apple in my lunch?”
Brenna: “No. They were too big and you wouldn’t have time to eat anything else.”
Taunee: “Awwwwwww.”
Brenna: “But I did pack you grapes and a Cutie”
Taunee: “Yay!”
Brenna: “And I didn’t pack you any chocolate today”
Taunee: “THANK you!”

In explanation, she OD’d on chocolate recently and learned that it was better going down than it was coming up. For now, she’s a no-chocolate girl. So I’m guessing that she’ll eat all the jelly beans this Easter and her big sister, Sophie, will get to eat all the Cadbury Mini Eggs. Score, Soph!!!
I’m annoyed that I live in an area of the country that doesn’t have a food specialty. You know…a thing. In the Redding area, olives are big. Instead of wine, you can go to an olive tasting. If they had martini tastings to go with the olives, I’d be one happy woman.

Here’s the best part, though. Friday is always tri-tip day. It seems like every business has their own barbecues set up outside, slow roasting beef all day. This produces a little chunk of heaven that is wrapped in foil and (for a price) sent home with you. It’s oh, so good. Brenna made some twice-baked potatoes and I made a salad, and we were all in a food coma by 8pm.

I know I look a little crazed. But if you were on a "plant based diet" that you blew off while on vacation, you'd be excited about all this beef too!

I know I look a little crazed. But if you were on a “plant based diet” that you blew off while on vacation, you’d be excited about all this beef too!


Sophie taught herself the “Cup Song” from Pitch Perfect in one night. Oh, to have that kind of memory and retention again. The song is stuck in my head – probably forever. She also amazed and delighted the admiring crowd (us) by performing the tripod and singing the Star Spangled Banner at the same time. Repeatedly.

Bet you can't do it!

Bet you can’t do it!

And as for baby Mack?

He was not amused!

He was not amused! Brenna, however, sports the orange mustache without a whimper.

Brenna’s voice called down the hall: “Chris?” My mother instincts were immediately on alert by the tone – especially since the second and third calls were higher pitched and louder. Chris went running. A few moments later, Brenna came into the kitchen, looking a wee bit shaken. A little SNAKE had just been slithering around in her bathroom sink. What the… I don’t want to know how that could happen, but I was grateful that there was only a day left before I flew back home, and I waited to take a shower until I was safely back in my own bathroom. I’m not afraid of snakes, but in the sink? Huh-uh. No way.


Ugh. They say THIS is the worst part. Somehow I doubt that.

Ugh. They say THIS is the worst part. Somehow I doubt that.

And now, I’m home again. See all the stuff on the tray? Can you guess what I get to do tomorrow? Ugh. I had a very casual doctor, and put off this whole colonoscopy business for years without getting lectured. But now I have a new doctor, and somehow I find myself bustled into this clinic and that, having all the tests I’ve been avoiding forever.

I have my fears about this. I’m terrified of anesthesia – not just that I might not wake back up, but that if I do there’s no telling what I might say. I’ve thought of so many inappropriate things I could spill my guts about that now I’ve practically guaranteed it’ll happen, and the medical staff will probably be laughing with friends over drinks tomorrow night, saying “You’ll never guess what this woman said today…”

Thinking happy thoughts. Thinking of my happy place. Puppies. Babies. Recipes.fly1atiny

Whew. That lovely procedure is over. I’m home – a little shaky, violated, but glad to have that behind (heh heh) me. Lovely nurses, a hysterically funny anesthesiologist, warm blankets, and a delicious lunch afterwards. Not to mention a sweet power nap! Yes, I could do that again.fly1atiny

And on this cheery note, I’ll pass on the recipe for Sophie’s favorite cookie. We made them while I was visiting, and the whole batch disappeared almost immediately. I’m sure you’ve all had these, but if you think about it, they look like something a fly would LOVE.

"Cow Pies", also known as "Boiled Cookies"

“Cow Pies”, also known as “Boiled Cookies”

Cow Pies
Serves: 24
I love to use chunky peanut butter, and sometimes add chopped peanuts with the oats. The recipe makes about 24, but trust me - you'll probably want to double it!
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups quick oats
  1. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk. Bring to a rolling boil and then let the mixture boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
  2. Remove from heat and add a pinch of salt and the peanut butter. Stir until well blended.
  3. Stir in vanilla and oats.
  4. Drop by large teaspoons (or use a scoop!) onto waxed paper to cool.

Fly away and check out these great blogs!

Baking In a Tornado
Stacy Sews and Schools
My Brain on Kids
Just a Little Nutty
Menopausal Mother
The Sadder But Wiser Girl
The Momisodes
Follow Me Home
Moore Organized Mayhem
Finding Felicity
Caramel Living

Perfect Dinner Rolls (if you’re a leprechaun!)

A traditional clover-leaf roll...except it's green!

A traditional cloverleaf roll…except it’s green!

Are you ready to get some dough under your nails? Green dough, to be exact – since it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll give you my basic recipe for dinner rolls, and then instructions below for making the green clovers. Wow your friends and crank out the shamrocks!

Fair warning, I’m hitting the green wine, starting….NOW! I’ll try to get the recipe ingredients entered before I lose my focus, and the photos snapped while I’m still only seeing one of everything. (Disclaimer: In case you’re wondering about my wine glass, this was a gift from my daughter, who understands my obsession for blue ribbons. She’s not saying I’m a really top-notch whore…just that I will do nearly anything to add to my ribbon collection.)



Remember, this is my basic dinner roll recipe. You’ll have to jazz it up with green food color and follow the photos below for making cloverleaf rolls.

Perfect Dinner Rolls
Serves: 24
This recipe makes 2 dozen soft, fluffy dinner rolls. You can also flatten out balls of dough for delicious hamburger buns!
  • 2¼ cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup powdered nondairy creamer
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 6 to 7 cups bread flour
  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast into the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, butter, creamer, salt, and 5 cups of flour. Beat until smooth. Slowly add just enough remaining flour to form a soft dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  3. Knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. (Or, if using a stand mixer, knead with a dough hook for approximately 5 minutes.)
  4. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled. Punch down.
  5. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. Shape into balls (or oblongs if you prefer) and place about an inch apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  6. Cover and allow the rolls to rise until doubled.
  7. Heat oven to 375 F.
  8. Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until they are golden brown on top.
  9. Cool on a rack.

Powdered creamer is something I never use in coffee. Ghastly stuff. But I’ve tried this recipe without it, and the rolls just don’t turn out as fluffy. Apparently it acts as a dough conditioner. Bite the bullet and use it – you’ll love these versatile rolls!

First, a FAIL!

As so often happens, the actual results of my first shamrock experiment didn’t exactly match the picture in my imagination. It was late and I’d had my share of green wine, so I went to bed and gave it a fresh try in the morning. Here’s what the first batch looked like – not exactly something that would go viral on Pinterest.



Plan “B” was to make cloverleaf rolls, using jumbo cupcake pans. They rose beautifully and were a perfect, delicate green; not gopher guts green – a very edible spring green shade. To make these, add green food coloring to the mixture in your bowl before you add the flour. So simple.

Roll dough into balls

Roll dough into balls

Put 3 balls of dough in each cavity.

Spray the pan with a little “Bakers Joy” and put 3 balls of dough in each cavity.



May the Good Lord take a liking to you… but not too soon!


Sophie’s Zebra Cake

In a rousing change-up from my normal routine, I flew to California to visit my daughter Brenna’s family and get cuddle time with new baby Mack, and found myself in a flurry of preparations for Sophie’s 9th birthday. Birthday parties are my idea of great fun, especially since Brenna and I go by the same principle: more is better.

The theme was black, white, and hot pink zebra designs. There were three girls coming – plus Sophie – for pizza, a slumber party, and bowling the next morning. It was obvious I hadn’t thrown a  slumber party in a long time, because I thought  that just four girls (and little sister, Taunee) couldn’t eat that much and wouldn’t  make very much noise.

Stop laughing. I can’t hear you anyway, because my ears are still ringing. This may be permanent.

The girls may not have eaten much at a time, but the foraging was constant. Picture locusts working their way through a wheat field. Luckily, Brenna was far more realistic and prepared for this situation. Pizza, bread sticks, potato chips. bowls of color coordinated candy (Good and Plenty candy provided the perfect color), drinks with festive paper straws…no one starved. And for the Pièce de résistance, she made this awesome zebra cake:

Zebra cake with hot pink icing!

Zebra cake with hot pink icing!

Start with two batches of cake (boxed mix or scratch – your choice) one white cake and one chocolate. She added a little black food coloring to the chocolate batter. In two cake pans layer dark and white batters, pouring about 1/3 cup (or 1/2 for wider stripes) at a time in the center. Don’t spread the batter. Don’t even tap the pan! Just pour.and bake.

Pour layers of batter right in the middle of the pan. Don't spread it!

Pour layers of batter right in the middle of the pan. Don’t spread it!

Keep those layers of batter coming! The weight of each layer spreads the ones below it.

Keep those layers of batter coming! The weight of each layer spreads the ones below it.

Cakes ready for the oven.

Cakes ready for the oven.

Baked and ready to level and frost.

Baked and ready to level and frost.

Frosting the cake.

Frosting the cake.

Sophie's Zebra Cake

Sophie’s Zebra Cake

Brenna cut shapes out of Wilton sugar sheets (they come in beautiful designs), and placed them on the hot pink sugar covered icing, piping around each shape. If you’re not into hot pink frosting, a simple white cake with the sugar sheet design around the sides would be lovely. Just pipe around the top edge of the sheet and decorate the top however you wish.

Each shape was placed on the frosting, then Brenna piped around each shape.

Each shape was placed on the frosting, then Brenna piped around each shape.

I probably don’t need to tell you that the cake was a big hit!blow out the candles Sophie

I got up early the next morning and started the dough for homemade doughnuts. Here is a link to my recipe and instructions. Doughnut Recipe

I used butter instead of shortening this time, and they turned out great. This pleases me because I really don’t like to use shortening unless I absolutely have to. Also (and this was a wonderful discovery) if you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can put a kernel of popcorn in the oil when you start to heat it, and when it pops the oils should be between 350 and 365 degrees – which is just right for frying doughnuts.

The zebra doughnuts were an adult-pleaser, but the girls had more fun with doughnut holes, dipping them in bowls of sugar, cinnamon sugar, and maple, vanilla, and chocolate icing. With sprinkles, of course!

Zebra doughnut. Get in mah belly!!!

Zebra doughnut. Get in mah belly!!!

Messy fun! Dipping doughnut holes. (The only rule double dipping!)

Messy fun! Dipping doughnut holes. (The only rule was…no double dipping!)

We had a blast decorating, baking, and listening to the giggles and shrieks. Cleaning up wasn’t quite as festive, but then – it never is!

Happy 9th birthday, Sophie Grace!